Learning Lots of Repertoire at once

July 12, 2021, 2:28 AM · This might be a dumb question, but I genuinely don't know the answer to this question. How do you learn a lot of music at once? I have a lot of music to learn over the summer and I've been practicing it, but I'm fairly certain I'm going about it the wrong way. Do you split the workload in half (or thirds, quarters, whatever) and learn that portion of music and then move on to the next portion once the previous one is learned and put it to the side for a bit? Do you learn all of it at the same time by splitting the workload over a few days and after you get through it all you start back at the beginning? Something completely different?

I've never had this amount of music to learn before and I feel like I'm doing it VERY wrong, so I was hoping people who have done the same thing could tell me how to tackle lots of music to where it all gets learned in a good amount of time and nothing either gets too neglected or half-baked.

If this is a stupid question, I apologize.

Replies (14)

July 12, 2021, 3:00 AM · How much is "a lot"?
How hard is the music?
What does "learn" mean - play competently, play well, memorise off by heart?
July 12, 2021, 4:54 AM · The level of difficulty varies. Here’s the entire list:

Kreutzer etudes 2 through 15

Paganini Caprices no 2, 16

The Loure and Menuets from Bach’s E major partita

The Grave and Fugue from Bach’s A minor Sonata

Beethoven Sonata no 8 in G major

Ysaye Solo Sonata no 2

Vieuxtemps Concerto no 5 in A minor

By learn I would say to the point where it’s ready to present to my teacher in the fall when school starts back up. I’m not taking lessons over the summer so I’m on my own until the fall. So not necessarily performance ready, but it’s obvious I’ve worked on everything and have gotten a good start on it by myself.

July 12, 2021, 7:02 AM · Either you are a genius or your teacher is an idiot.
July 12, 2021, 7:18 AM · Wow, that’s some list.
Edited: July 12, 2021, 9:44 AM · If your teacher wants you to simply get familiar with these pieces over the summer and gradually polish them after you resume your lessons, I see nothing wrong with it.

Also, you should specify when you're actually going back to school. If this is the load for, say, 3 months, it's not bad at all. If you're going back to school in, say, August, then I guess I have to agree with Gordon...

Either way, I'd say you shouldn't do all of them at the same time. Maybe do the concerto, pick one of the Bach (A minor or E major), and pick one of the Paganini. Haven't played Beethoven No. 8 so won't comment on that one, but Ysaye #2 shouldn't be too bad if you're learning Pag #2 already. If you're simply reviewing Kreutzer instead of learning them for the first time (or else there's no way you should be learning Paganini), you should be able to get through 2-15 pretty fast.

July 12, 2021, 7:34 AM · With such a stupid amount of rep to learn, I would be tempted to study one group of things per day, followed with quick review during the last hour of practise. Your brain will process the other pieces in the background during the days you work on everything else.

Either that or drop half of these pieces.

July 12, 2021, 8:10 AM · Who decided what would he on the list, you or your teacher?

And why?

Are these completely new to you, or are you familiar with them?

July 12, 2021, 8:30 AM · I believe Josh Wright (pianist on YouTube) has a video on learning a lot of rep. That may be worth taking a look at. I can't remember the exact title though. Even though its on piano, its transferrable over I think
July 12, 2021, 9:07 AM · Second thought tells me there's no way his teacher assigned Pag 2, 16, and Ysaye if it's his first time learning Kreutzer 2-15.

Actually, the combo of 1 concerto + 1 solo Bach + 1 virtuoso piece + 1 or 2 Pag isn't that uncommon. So it'd be perfectly reasonable if he drops either of the Bach sonatas and either of Beethoven or Ysaye...

Edited: July 12, 2021, 12:11 PM · Sure, Mavis, but then what does he work on next week?
Edited: July 12, 2021, 1:02 PM · I assume that a good chunk of this is review, but this is still manageable even if not.

For the Kreutzer, I would rotate through. Pick one to three of them to do every day, as a warm-up. You can probably play straight through -- but do it attentively -- since even if you had never played them before, they would be basically sight-readable and you're just paying special attention to whatever skill is being exercised.

For the two Paganini Caprices, if those are also review (I'm guessing they probably are), I'd probably choose to focus on them sequentially. Otherwise, since 16 is easier than 2, choose timing based on what else you're working on.

I'm guessing you've also played the Bach E major partita? It's easier than the A minor sonata, and reviewing the movements (or even learning them fresh) is a significant but not massive project. I'd consider doing this review alongside learning Ysaye 2, since the Obsession is something of a riff on the E major.

The Fugue from the A minor sonata is nontrivial.

I'd suggest splitting up your summer. Work on the Bach 3rd Partita along with Ysaye 2 and the Beethoven, plus Paganini 2. And learn the Bach 2nd sonata along with the Vieuxtemps, and Paganini 16. The order you choose is up to you.

That seems like it should be a very manageable amount of repertoire. As Mavis noted, it's common to do a concerto + showpiece + Bach.

July 12, 2021, 2:08 PM · I’m going to try and answer all questions in one post.

I’m starting with a new teacher this year because I graduated from UNT this past spring and I’m starting my master’s at SMU studying with Alexander Sitkovetsky (I don’t think he’s an idiot). He assigned me all of this.

School for me starts on August 23. The load is for the course of 3 months. I’ve already started learning everything since the beginning of June after a small break after my senior recital.

I’ve done over half of the Kreutzer he’s assigned me before and since the summer has started I’ve completed 2-9 so far. Also, he told I didn’t necessarily have to learn the entirety of each etude, just enough to learn the techniques associated with each of them. With the Kreutzer I’ve been able to sight read through each one, mark the hard spots (if any) and work on them, and then start increasing the tempo once I’ve gotten a good grasp on the technique needed.

I’ve learned some other Paganini Caprices before already, but 2 and 16 are both new. 16 I’ve been able to get through pretty well. It’s at the stage of starting to do under tempo run-throughs, marking spots that are still a problem and then fixing them before I start increasing the tempo. 2 is going relatively well, but the 10ths were a bit of a pain (mentally not physically).

I’ve played most of the E major partita. The Loure and two Menuets are the only movements I’ve never done, so he wants me to finish up the partita. I gave him a list of repertoire I’ve learned and he saw that I hadn’t done those movements. I’ve never learned the A minor sonata, so he wanted to start that one and told me to look at the first two movements.

I’ve had a few lessons with him when I was trying to figure out where to go for my Master’s and he said he wanted to free up my upper right arm because when I do string crossings I mainly do it from the forearm and hand. So the kreutzer is for bow technique to get me to start freeing up my arm. He also mentioned Ysaye 2 was good for working out the right arm (and the left hand of course). I’m currently about to start speeding up the obsession from Ysaye 2.

For Beethoven I’ve just started learning the 3rd movement. The 1st and 2nd movements are on the back burner. After I finish the 3rd movement I’ll go back and review the whole sonata.

July 12, 2021, 9:48 PM · Greetings,
aside from the organization which would be pretty much like Lydia said it seems to me to be a wonderful opportunity to really get into mental practice. I only mention this because it hasn’t cropped up in the conversation so far. It isn’t always possible , but for a player at your level actually having a memorized version of the work in your head before even picking up the instrument is very desirable. (That is why ASM learns her pieces primarily on the piano which is another option.) I don’t know how many hours you plan on practicing but the mental approach will help to avoid injury.
If you are practicing one set of works and have not yet started another it is useful to have a day when you play through that future work a few times noting bad spots, seeing which improve on the second run through etc. without practicing them.
Since you seem to be familiar with most of this stuff it seems to be more a question of cycling but maybe you can still have days when you perform what you are not working on to keep them alive on the back burner.
The other practice method which I like more and more these days wa recommended by Simon Fischer in his podcast when he wa stalking about Perlman who famously claimed that he learned works by playing them through over and over again. This does seem to be the antithesis of practice as it is generally understood but it does have a heck of a lot of merits and might well be applicable to some of the things you are doing.
Cheers,
Buri
July 13, 2021, 3:20 PM · As a side note, when I first saw this topic header, I guessed this would be about learning orchestral repertoire for gigs. That's where the rubber really meets the road in learning efficiency, because if you're a freelancing violinist (or are lucky enough to land a full-time orchestra job) you may have an entire concert's worth of repertoire to learn each week.

So get good at knowing what sections you don't need to practice, as you stare down bigger chunks of repertoire.


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